Your Cleveland Cavaliers resemble an NBA team. Tristan Thompson looks like he can be the bridge, against all odds, between the old-world and new-world Cavs. Collin Sexton looks like a legitimate building block. David Nwaba is showing the type of promise (frankly, more promise) that got Alonzo Gee guaranteed money with the Cavs a few years back. There’s plenty of time for Larry Nance Jr. to justify his extension and Rodney Hood to play his way into the Cavs plans.
And along with the optimism comes the added knowledge that, for now, the team’s first draft pick is safe and sound from reverting to the Atlanta Hawks. They’re firmly in the mix for the league’s top pick. Not bad. Now here come the Thunder from Oklahoma City.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (4-15) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-7)
When: 8:00 pm
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Enemy Blog: Welcome to Loud City
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: David Nwaba (questionable), Sam Dekker (out), Kevin Love (out), George Hill (out).
Opponent injuries: Hamidou Diallo (out), Terrance Ferguson (out), Nerlens Noel (questionable)
Three keys to the game:
- Energy: Russell Westbrook, as ever, is filling up the stat sheet. The Cavs need to play with pace to stay competitive. Whichever team controls the glass, possession of the basketball (doesn’t turn the ball over) and can get or limit easy baskets in transition will have the upper hand. I’ll touch on it below, but the Cavs have been a different team with David Nwaba in the lineup. If he’s able to spend time on Paul George and bother him with his energy, perhaps the Cavs can muck up the Thunder a bit in the half court.
- David Nwaba’s time on Paul George: I’d like to feel as good about Cedi Osman’s time on George as I do about Nwaba’s, but both will have to be good at various points in time if the Cavs want to make this competitive. A friend passed along the note that the Cavs are 3-3 in games Nwaba has played 20 minutes or more. I don’t know that he’s got end potential as a starter, but it’s good to see the Cavs collecting valuable players. It’d be great to see the team extend him; at the very least he’s earned a rotation spot even when some guys get healthy.
- Scrounging together shooting: The Cavs looked pretty good against the Timberwolves on Monday night, but they’re not scoring the basketball and a big part of it is a lack of shooting. They finished 10-31 from three point range, which isn’t a disaster, but it included 6-9 shooting from distance from Kyle Korver. His minutes come and go, and the Cavs aren’t getting enough makes, or even attempts, from anyone else. We can bang the drum on Sexton, and hopefully he’ll start taking more. Osman needs to take them regardless of whether they are going in. Rodney Hood is a genuinely good shooter. A big part of the problem is that Jordan Clarkson, Sexton, Osman, and Hood need to a better job of setting up spot-up shooters. Hopefully that comes with time.
Well, I sort of cheated and looked at David Nwaba and Paul George up above. It’ll be fun to see Tristan Thompson and Steven Adams, two of the league’s toughest players, match up. They both work hard, do the little things, and have found ways to become really valuable NBA players. Adams is a little better than Thompson, but if one has the clear upper hand it’ll go a long way.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
This might be a game the Cavs just sort of fail to look to look competitive in for the first time in awhile. Thunder 121, Cavs 99.